Cleaner fish are potential super-spreaders

Narvaez, Pauline, Morais, Renato A., Vaughan, David B., Grutter, Alexandra S., and Hutson, Kate S. (2022) Cleaner fish are potential super-spreaders. Journal of Experimental Biology, 225. 15.

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Cleaning symbiosis is critical for maintaining healthy biological communities in tropical marine ecosystems. However, potential negative impacts of mutualism, such as the transmission of pathogens and parasites during cleaning interactions, have rarely been evaluated. Here, we investigated whether the dedicated bluestreak cleaner wrasse, Labroides dimidiatus, is susceptible to and can transmit generalist ectoparasites between client fish. In laboratory experiments, L. dimidiatus were exposed to infective stages of three generalist ectoparasite species with contrasting life histories. Labroides dimidiatus were susceptible to infection by the gnathiid isopod Gnathia aureamaculosa, but were significantly less susceptible to the ciliate protozoan Cryptocaryon irritans and the monogenean flatworm Neobenedenia girellae, compared with control host species (Coris batuensis or Lates calcarifer). The potential for parasite transmission from a client fish to the cleaner fish was simulated using experimentally transplanted mobile adult (i.e. egg-producing) monogenean flatworms on L. dimidiatus. Parasites remained attached to cleaners for an average of 2 days, during which parasite egg production continued, but was reduced compared with that on control fish. Over this timespan, a wild cleaner may engage in several thousand cleaning interactions, providing numerous opportunities for mobile parasites to exploit cleaners as vectors. Our study provides the first experimental evidence that L. dimidiatus exhibits resistance to infective stages of some parasites yet has the potential to temporarily transport adult parasites. We propose that some parasites that evade being eaten by cleaner fish could exploit cleaning interactions as a mechanism for transmission and spread.

Item ID: 75686
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1477-9145
Keywords: Parasite, Transmission, Cleaning symbiosis
Copyright Information: © 2022. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.
Date Deposited: 08 Aug 2022 02:32
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 30%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3104 Evolutionary biology > 310407 Host-parasite interactions @ 35%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3107 Microbiology > 310703 Microbial ecology @ 35%
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